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Scenes of City Life - 都市风光

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Scenes of City Life - 都市风光

Published 1935

subtitles are available off this site at

A heavily didactic 1935 Shanghai movie which plays as a tragic comedy. A poor guy loves a girl but there's another man after her, and her father is also in the way. It starts out like Charlie Chaplin, but it goes on to show the basic moral failures of the Westernized capitalistic city. While it has its problems (one of the biggest being that it has two huge framing devices right at the beginning - it takes a few minutes before it really gets going) I consider this movie on par with "The Goddess", and one of the best mainland Chinese movies ever.

It's my first time subtitling a Chinese movie, I'd appreciate any feedback.

Creative Commons License

This work is dedicated to the
Public Domain.

Producer Yuan Muzhi
Audio/Visual sound, color
Language Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles
Contact Information Jeff Rutsch,


Yuan Muzhi - Director


Reviewer: Robert B. Livingston - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 7, 2013
Subject: City life beckoning

Will Shanghai be as lustrous and exciting as the illusion of it glimpsed in the opticon at the beginning of this film?

One can ask loads of questions about this imaginative and fascinating film.

I liked the New Year's party scene where a record of Sam Lanin's "Whistling In The Dark" spins out of control somewhere in the background.

For those wondering how to get the English subtitles mentioned above-- go to the url and download the .srt file (store it in the same folder as your movie file.)

When you play the film, you may have to explore the menus of your video player to turn the subtitles on.

Thank you for the subtitles, they are really helpful!

(Interesting comments, Jeff Rutsch! Especially about Jiang Ching, one of whose official crimes in the Gang of Four trials was her secretive admiration for Gone With The Wind.)
Reviewer: awyeah - - July 3, 2010
Subject: Any Chinese (mandarin) subtitles?
Hey I'd also really like to get the Chinese subtitles for this.

Can anyone upload them onto this website? Would be very helpful!
Reviewer: barbara lattanzi - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 4, 2009
Subject: questions regarding song between minute 3:00 and minute 4:00
Jeff, this is my first post to the archive. I am very interested in this film and find that qualities of the dialogue (accessible to me via your subtitle translation) have intriguing resonance to the odd spareness of the overall soundtrack itself. So I really appreciate your work on this film!

The thing that I am most curious about, however, does not appear in your translation. The missing part of your translation is the section from approximately 2:45 to 4:00 minutes in the film: words being sung (and also - mysteriously - the words sung but "covered over" by humming) by the operator of a peep show.

I believe that the singer is the film director, Yuan Muzhi, himself. Is this unusual for the period... for a film director in 1930s China to appear in his own film?

More questions about this particular interlude: Is the song made that much more significant by being performed by the director at this introductory "framing" part of the film?

Since the song is part of a "peep show" spectacle for travellers, are the lyrics culturally transgressive for the time (as peep shows might presumably be)?

Was Yuan Muzhi interested in a political reading of his film and would there be, therefore, a political subtext for the song he performs? Would this political subtext (if there is one) be placed in a song in order to slip past the censors?

One final question... In the few Chinese films of the period that I have seen (e.g., Street Angel), any song performed within a narrative film is accompanied by Chinese subtitles in a "sing-along" style. However, "Scenes of City Life" is an exception. Yuan Muzhi's song is performed without the singalong subtitles. Why?

Barbara Lattanzi
Reviewer: Jeff Rutsch - - October 21, 2008
Subject: More about subtitles
Several comments here. First of all, I view these movies with BSplayer 1.37, for Windows. That version is freeware (newer versions aren't), and to see the subtitles you just right click and go to "Load subtitles," it's easy. The player is available at However, basically any modern video player easily allows for external subtitles. I have no plans to upload a version with burnt subtitles. Anybody who would like that can check out the licenses and do it themself, if so inclined.

Personally I don't think this movie was part of a larger Communist scheme. I think it was merely a satire of a Capitalist society, by a writer/director sympathetic both to traditional Chinese mores and leftist causes. I wrote a little more on my blog at

By the way, I didn't mention that the business woman is a 21 year old Jiang Qing, who went on to infamy as Mao Zedong's 4th wife, and leader of the supposed "Gang of Four."
Reviewer: quigs - favoritefavorite - October 15, 2008
Subject: Scenes of City Life
Where are the subtitles? Don't tell me to go to
that other place where I can download the translation. It doesn't help to be reading paper and listening to a film. Could you do this please? If not for me than for my friend in Shanghai.
Reviewer: saucerguy - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 27, 2008
Subject: Prophetic film?
Were the Chinese Communists initially using the system they called "Communism" to organize & educate the people, mainly the peasants who were the majority, thus build human & technological capital, then switch to Capitalism? Did this program start in the 1930's using Shanghai as a model? See the Chinese movie: "Scenes of City life (1935)" online:
Reviewer: rq52 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 19, 2008
Subject: Scenes- good film could be better
I understand or (rather emphaise) with the plight of no subtitles and adding them to the film. Since I am a novice in computer things, could you Jeff put into the film? A friend of mine who teaches english to Chinesse students would love have this as a teaching tool to improve their English and for him to work on his Mandarian Chinesse. Thanks Jeff and thank you IA.
Reviewer: bearpuf - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 22, 2008
Subject: Worth Subtitling for the Learning
I had downloaded and watched some of the movie 3 or 4 months ago without the subtitles. Today I went to the link listed on this page and downloaded the subtitle .srt file with the notion of actually rendering it with the avi file I already had.
Next I went to .
This short how to article (with pictures) will give you the names of two freeware programs and a subtitle plug in that can be used to render this movie with the subtitle .srt file. After messing up a couple of times I finally found my way and the two files combined. As usual the enjoyment came not only from the watching but the doing as well.
The movie is quite good as a satire on life in a capitalist economy and worthy of four stars but getting to watch it with the subtitles is a five star event. Thanks Jeff
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